Written by Scott Larsen, Executive Director at Twin Lakes Bible Camp
The short answer is, “YES”!
Back in the ’50s and ’60s, and really through the ’80s and ’90s, it was fairly common for church kids to spend a week at summer camp. There was no air conditioning or padded chairs, and there might not have even been lifeguards at the lake, but how fun it was!
When those kids grew up, they sent their kids to Bible camp, and so forth. However, about two decades ago, attendance numbers started to decline.
Today, most young parents didn’t attend camp when they were young, so they don’t have the positive experience to draw from when deciding to send their own children. I’ve been in full-time camp ministry for fifteen years, and I’m here to tell you that Bible camp is alive and well, and kids today need the camp experience more than ever before.
The stories I hear from parents are fuel for the journey and proof of a mission accomplished:
- “On the ride home from camp my son talked nonstop, for four hours!”
- “My daughter told her sister that next summer she needs to go too.”
- “My son came home from camp changed. He was kinder to his siblings, more respectful, helpful, grateful…what do you guys do at that camp?”
Why is camp so effective? The Gospel changes lives, and camp presents that life-changing message in perhaps the most tangible way possible. Bible camp is centered on solid Bible teaching, Jesus-loving staff, enthusiastic worship, and adventure all packed into a community of peers seeking God with their whole heart. Of course good things are going to happen!
Parents and Grandparents, this is so important! Find a good camp and get those kids’ bags packed. Maybe you all go to camp as a family, or maybe you send them with their siblings and peers.
There are several things to consider when looking into where to send them for Bible camp: What kind of activities are available? Do they have a nurse on duty? Can I make cabin-mate requests? What time do they have to go to bed? These are worthwhile questions, but here are the two most important things to ask about:
- Bible – There are plenty of camps that have the word “Bible” in their name, but take the time to read the statement of faith, do a phone interview with the key program staff, and even visit the camp if you can. Make sure their teaching is consistent with your beliefs. Our vision is to see campers experience God in such a powerful way that they become disciple-makers. Our tagline is “a fun place to get serious.” Where you spend eternity is the most serious question to answer.
- Safety – There can be a lot of things in this category, but the most important is having a trustworthy staff. Most camps hire college-age seasonal staff to provide the front line ministry to the campers. Ask questions about the recruiting, hiring, training, and supervision of the staff. Before we hire a cabin counselor, we require a formal application, interview, references, background check, completion of online courses, and two weeks of onsite training. Make sure the camp is rigorous in its hiring process and has written guidelines that the staff is required to follow.
Christian Camp and Conference Association (ccca.org) is a great place to look for camps. They have 872 camps and provide a tool on their website to help you find a camp in your area that matches your criteria. You can also read more about the power of camp and how it can impact kids today. While there are many great camps that are not members of CCCA, this is a good place to start.
Some Bible camps also allow families to accompany their children with family camp. Imagine a vacation with a purpose! As a family, you can experience solid Bible teaching, enthusiastic worship, roasting marshmallows, and looking at the stars together. What a great investment of your time and money! The only downside to overnight youth camp is that when they come home, nobody is as pumped up about Jesus as they are. Family camp provides a shared experience, so everyone can feel a renewed sense of purpose.
Several years ago we started offering Camp with Grandparents, and it has been one of the most amazing experiences. At the camp, a grandparent grabbed my face in his hands and said, “This has been the best three days of my life!” Another grandparent talked about “truly connecting” and making unforgettable memories with her grandchildren. Many mentioned memorizing Bible verses together and watching their grandchildren sing as highlights.
Whether you are thinking about sending kids to Bible camp or coming with them, just do it! This is a wonderful life experience you won’t regret.
Scott Larsen is the Executive Director at Twin Lakes Bible Camp in northwest Iowa. (Contact Scott) To find more information about the camp, or specifically grandparents camp, visit their website. Jane Larsen (Scott’s wife) serves with Legacy Coalition as the Director of Connections. (Contact Jane)